Bob Greenblatt Poised to Step Down as NBC Entertainment Chairman (EXCLUSIVE)

Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC EntertainmentPaley Media Council Conversation with Bob Greenblatt, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Oct 2016
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shut

Bob Greenblatt is preparing to leave his post as NBC Entertainment chairman after leading the network’s turnaround during the past eight years.

Greenblatt, who renewed his contract with NBC last fall, is in the process of negotiating his exit plan at NBC after making the decision that the time is right for him to make the transition, multiple sources familiar with the situation have told Variety. He’s expected to meet this weekend with NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke to work out an exit plan that would give NBC a long runway for setting a successor. His official departure could be as late as the end of the 2018-19 season in May.

At NBC, Greenblatt has engineered an impressive rebound for the network after out of years in the ratings cellar. NBC has been a roll in the last two years in particular thanks to the buzzy hit “This Is Us.” Under Greenblatt, NBC has finished four of the last five seasons as the top-rated primetime network in the 18-49 demo. NBC also finished the 52-week 2017-18 season as the No. 1 network in nearly every ratings measure, including total viewers — the first time since 2001-02 that NBC has taken the total-viewers crown.

It’s understood that Greenblatt saw the total-viewers victory as a big milestone that was a good bookend for his NBC run.

Greenblatt joined NBC in 2011, just as Comcast completed its acquisition of NBCUniversal and months before the network launched what would quickly become broadcast’s top-rated unscripted series, “The Voice.” In 2016, NBC premiered “This Is Us,” which became the highest rated drama on broadcast. Greenblatt last year drew the creators and cast of comedy “Will & Grace” back to the network for a revival that proved to be a ratings success. The show has already been renewed for 2019-20, ahead of its upcoming 2018-19 premiere. NBC also scored a critical favorite with comedy “The Good Place,” which earned an Emmy nomination for star Ted Danson in his sophomore season.

Greenblatt’s tenure is also highlighted by the revival of the annual live TV musical spectacular, which he championed starting with the sleeper success of “The Sound of Music Live” in December 2013. NBC’s competitors have followed suit with their own productions, particularly Fox which is staging a rendition of “Rent” on Jan. 27. NBC is just coming off five big Emmy wins for its most recent production, “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” starring John Legend.

Among the heads of the Big Four broadcast networks, Greenblatt is the longest tenured, with seven years at the helm. A veteran of cable and broadcast, he was recruited from Showtime following a successful seven-year run there where he kickstarted its push into original series programming with dramas such as “Dexter,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Californication.”

Greenblatt has also long been active as a producer of Broadway and other theater, something that he may well pursue again after he leaves NBC. He was part of the team behind the 2014 Tony winning musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” and he produced the Broadway musical rendition of “9 to 5” during his time at Showtime.

Before Showtime, Greenblatt had a production partnership with David Janollari that yielded the Emmy winning HBO drama “Six Feet Under.” Earlier in his career Greenblatt was one the original members of the programming team at Fox Broadcasting, rising to No. 2 in programming.

Upon his arrival in 2011, Greenblatt recruited 20th Century Fox Television exec Jennifer Salke to lead scripted development for NBC. The network went on to find success with dramas such as “The Blacklist” and “Blindspot,” as well as Dick Wolf’s “Chicago Fire” and its offshoots. Salke left NBC earlier this year to become head of Amazon Studios. That transition is also said to have weighed on Greenblatt’s decision as he and Salke worked closely together for years.

Greenblatt’s departure adds to the turmoil among the Big Four broadcast networks at present with Fox and ABC poised for major shakeups as a result of Disney’s historic acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets. CBS is also been under pressure amid the corporate drama that has enveloped the company and led to the ouster of CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves earlier this month.